Diplomacy is always the first option in international relations, and all efforts to reach a diplomatic solution in disputes should be exhausted. Sometimes, though, diplomacy just does not work.
When Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement with Nazi Germany, ceding part of Czechoslovakia in an attempt to appease Hitler’s lust for power, the world saw the downside of overreliance on diplomacy.
Iran announced Tuesday that it had begun enriching uranium at a faster pace after flatly rejecting a Western proposal to export uranium for enrichment. The United States and France called for harsher sanctions from the United Nations in response, and Russia -which has long blocked sanctions on the Islamic Republic while aiding its nuclear program – began to move closer to the Western position.
How many times must we go through this dance? This scenario is playing out exactly as it did few months ago when Iran rejected another Western proposal and then revealed its secret reactor at Qom. The Western world cried out then that the secret facility and Iran’s rejection confirmed its worst suspicions. Yet nothing happened. The powers returned to discussions and doomed-to-fail negotiations with Iran and now that country has once again spat in the face of the international community.
Sanctioning Iran would require the support of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. In the wake of Tuesday’s announcement, China again announced that it would not support new sanctions and the parties should return to the discussion table.
The lesson we need to learn is to take Iran at its word. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has long said his country would not give up its nuclear quest. Yet we continue trying to change his mind.
Yes, we should continue to hold out an olive branch, but we must realize the limits of diplomacy. So far, Iran has managed to prolong the debate while it continues developing its nuclear program and it has avoided consequences for its actions.
A nuclear Iran is a danger to the entire world. If negotiations continue in an endless, fruitless loop then Israel will be forced to take military action. To avoid that scenario the world powers must impose sanctions now. After Iran learns that its actions do indeed have consequences, negotiations can resume. Until then, the West is merely shouting into the wind.